Ascension Behavioral Health

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Fast Five - Dr. A.'s Self-Care

Talk about self-care is everywhere these days, right? I'm pretty sure that I talk to my clients about how they take care of themselves nearly every session (or at least as needed). A common misconception is often that self-care = the fun or relaxing stuff that we have a hard time fitting into our busy schedules. The truth is that self-care includes concrete tasks that are required for you to function more effectively, which can include things you love to do, but also those things you don't love to do but need to do, to keep your wheels spinning. Self-care is an ongoing learning process at any age and should be adjusted as your needs adjust. I've had to work hard to establish self-care routines, and they might change day to day depending on how much sleep I've had, what my schedule looks like, where I am, or when last I took a vacation. Below are some strategies that work for me 75% of the time and when they don't, I pile on my others!

1. A to-do list. I don't go many places without a running list of specific tasks to complete that day (and even bonus tasks to complete if some time opens up!) Trick: If you use a to-do list, or any kind of taskmaster journal, try to make your tasks as specific as possible, including names, phone numbers, #'s of things to complete. Helps to not have to do extra work when the time comes to get down to completion.) I feel good writing down tasks because I'm more organized, efficient and I increase the likelihood that things will get done. 

2. Laundry/Dishes/Sweeping. There are steps involved with these in order for me to feel better about how I've used my time and how I'm taking care of my necessities. For example, vague "laundry" can look simple, but it fully means 1) locate the dirty clothes, 2) move the dirty clothes to the washer, 3) add detergent and wash the clothes! 4) (really important) switch the clothes from washer to dryer and PUSH. THE. BUTTON., 5) take the clothes out to sort, 6) actually sort the clothes, 7) FOLD the clothes, Ayanna! and lastly, (also really important) put the clothes where they belong, which is not my bed. When I complete these tasks, I feel relieved, responsible, & accomplished. Dishes and sweeping also require steps and bring me the same sense of relief when they are complete. 

3. Running. I'm just returning from medical leave and haven't been able to use this strategy at all since December, so I've needed to use my other tools to take care of myself. Running helps me to relieve physical tension, get some fresh air, and spend time with friends. Since not being able to run, I've found other ways to spend time with friends I no longer see on the pavement, and do other kinds of workouts that align with my recovery. Running is a stable part of my week and keeps me on track with my goals.

4. Light a candle. Most of my clients know I have a thing for a good soft candle scent, so at least one candle is often lit for hours when I am at work or home. Aromatherapy (by candle or oil) really helps me to feel calm and centered, and I love coming home to or waking up to a scent that was lit earlier and lingers gently. (This self-care strategy also includes buying candles, so that I am prepared to take care of myself year round).

5. Spending time alone. Between my typical work, social & exercise schedule, I am easily around people 80-85% of my week. While I love all of these aspects of my life and what they bring to me, they also take time, energy & money. I've been known to become burned out on outside activities, and then reactively say "NO!" to everything that comes across my calendar that wasn't mandatory. Or, I would still go out, and resent that I went because I knew I was tired and either needed sleep or some me time. What I learned was that it's better to work on protecting my time upfront and not schedule so many things in the first place! Give my self nights off from others and sometimes whole weekends to focus on myself. Trying to squeeze myself in between others is just plain unfair, and doesn't allow me to be my best in those spaces.

Any of these strategies sound familiar? How do yours differ? Make your own list--the longer the better! Feel free to comment below with what works or doesn't work for you, I'd love to hear it! Til next time, - Dr. A